The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Bridge takes its name from Sokollu Mehmet Pasha (b.1505-d.1579), famous Grand Vizier under Süleyman I (1520-1566) and Selim II (1566-1574), who commissioned the well-known court architect Sinan to build a bridge across the Drina River. A native of Visegrad, Mehmed Pasha was chosen as a child to enter the imperial devsirme system, which brought young boys from the Balkans to Istanbul to train and educate them for important political, military, and administrative careers in the empire. He married Princess Esmahan, the daughter of Selim II, and commissioned many religious and commercial complexes throughout the empire.
With its eleven masonry arches, the Visegrad Bridge spans 179 meters with a four-meter wide roadway. A rectangular stone panel is placed on the balcony at the center of the bridge, on the south side. An arched niche on the inner face of the panel separates two inscriptive plaques, which both commemorate the bridge's construction. The inscription inside the arch dates to 1571 while the one above the arch inscribed with the name of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) dates to 1577. While uncertain, the first plaque probably gives the date of completion during the rule of Sultan Selim II and the second one was most likely ordered later by Murad III, his successor, to commemorate his rule in the region.
The Ottoman inscription on the plaque within the arch translates to:
Mehmed Pasha, the Asaf* of this age and time
Who has adorned the world with his noble person
He has used his property to make charitable bequests, to please God
No one can say that goods used in this way have been misspent
In all his life he has spent gold and silver on works of charity
He knew that with such works he would leave behind a beautiful legacy
In Bosnia, over the river Drina he has made a magnificent bridge
With a row of arches he has spanned this river
This deep river, whose waters are rushing fast
Over whose waters his predecessors could not build its like
But with the help of God his excellency the Pasha could do it
So that his name would be remembered with honour and gratitude
He had this bridge built, the like of which is not to be found elsewhere in the world
Surely no one will say that money employed in this way was ill spent
My hope is that by the grace of God he who built this bridge
Will have a life of good fortune, untroubled by mishaps of any kind
Nihadi [the poet] who witnessed the completion of its construction, wrote this chronogram**:
May God bless this wondrously great and most beautiful bridge
[Notes on the translation: year 979 of the Hijra = 1571 AD; *Asaf was the legendary vizier of King Solomon; his name thus became the synonym for one who gives wise advice to rulers, and **Chronogram (tarikh) is a line of poetry in which the sum of the numerical values of the Arabic letters, when added up, give the date of the event being celebrated in the poem].
The bridge underwent several periods of restoration and reconstruction in 1664, 1875 and 1911. Between 1914 and 1915, three of the western arches were destroyed. They were rebuilt by 1940. During World War II another five arches were ruined in the same area of the bridge. These were reconstructed by 1951. At this time, the stone paving on the bridge was also renewed with electric cables installed underneath.
Famous for its beauty and celebrated in Nobel-prize winner Ivo Andric's novel "The Bridge on the Drina", the historic bridge has been witness to mass executions during the 1992-1995 inter-ethnic Bosnian conflict. More recently, the structure was declared in danger of collapse due to fluctuations in the river level caused by a hydroelectric dam built upstream, and to damage from the vibration of automobiles passing over the bridge. It is currently closed to traffic.
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